On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Another Story for Laura

This week I was talking on the phone with my twenty-something friend, Emily (another former student). We were talking about getting creeped out in particular houses, since I'd had a "creeped out" experience recently. I was explaining to her that it didn't happen to me all that often, but that it had a few times when I was a teenager. I then went on to tell her the following story, the end of which she said was the saddest thing she'd ever heard. So here goes, however, this is the story with amplifications.

When I was just turning 14 we moved from the house we'd lived in since I was 3 and the town in which my mother, my sister, and I were all born. Now we didn't move that far away (only about 20 miles) and the town we moved to was one where my father had owned a farm since I was only a little over a year old. We'd spent a lot of time on that farm. I rode on a tractor on my father's lap before I was 3. My uncle taught me how to get milk out of a cow's teat by hand before I was 6. I spent a lot of time playing in the silo or the hay mow. I'd roamed the fields on that farm as I got older. I'd learned to help bring the cows in for milking, I even owned cows of my own.

Now we were living on a farm, not the same farm, but a second farm which my father had purchased the previous year. I sort of felt like I owned part of this farm since my father had borrowed money from my savings account for part of the purchase price. I was actually excited about the prospect of moving there, even though it meant leaving all my friends behind and going to a new school and so on.

This was the first Saturday we were at the farm. My father was still running a Mobil station in Northfield, he had another few weeks to finish out his lease on the place. My mother and my sister were headed off that day for some kind of event, I think it may have been 4-H related, but I'm not sure why I wouldn't have been going if that was the case. Anyway I was being left at home for the day, alone.

I didn't think I minded, but it did feel like a huge responsibility to keep the fires going etc. I was completely clueless about wood stoves, but accepted the instructions my mother gave me for the combination wood electric stove in the kitchen and the box stove in the living room. The furnace was still hooked up for oil at that point, but we weren't supposed to be really keeping the house warm that way.

They took off and I wandered the house by myself. It was pretty quiet because the television was not yet hooked up to an antenna and the reception there was non-existant without an antenna. I started out exploring the house, there were marvelous walk in places under the eaves in the upstairs and one of them had books left behind by the previous owners (including a novel by Upton Sinclair among other treasures). Hanging out upstairs, however, started to make me feel rather creepy. So I went back to the kitchen to make myself some lunch. I opened a can of tomato soup and put it into a sauce pan with milk from the fridge. I was just getting used to drinking milk that didn't come from a bottle from the store, but came from the cows in our own barn. Why we hadn't drunk our own milk until then I'm really not sure, but there's the fact of it, we hadn't. The raw milk still sort of bothered me (just the idea of it I think after all those school lessons on the importance of pasteurization). Anyway, I wasn't eager to drink the milk, but milk in the soup would be ok. I turned the burner on and waited, but not much seemed to happen. The burner got a tiny bit warm, but it wasn't really heating the soup all that much. After awhile the soup managed to achieve tepid and I ate it as was.

Now tepid soup in a creepy house was not a very comfortable combination. I didn't really want to go outside and walk in the pastures because it was raining cats and dogs. Still I was getting more and more nervous in the house. I was starting to hear creepy noises (almost certainly the normal creaks of an old house and the squirrels that used to get in under the eaves and roll acorns around). I tried playing the piano, but somehow that didn't help. Finally, I'd had enough, I put my raincoat on and went to the barn. I stayed in the barn the rest of the afternoon. The barn was fairly warm because the cows were all inside. I even went and sat down and leaned up against one of the cows. I always loved doing that. The cow was warm and her coat was smooth and shiny. I got to know our new barn quite well that afternoon. I petted the bull (very carefully) through his bars. I went and looked at all the young heifers, I checked out the silo. I probably played with the cat. It really wasn't a bad afternoon, and it was a whole lot better than being alone in that creepy house.

Now Emily thought that the fact I was so scared that I went and hid out in the barn was the saddest thing she'd ever heard. At the time, I think I felt a little desperate to get out of the house, and I do believe I was somewhat lonely for people in the barn. Still it didn't seem like all that sad an afternoon for me. I actually liked spending time in the barn all by myself with the cows. It was something that probably never happened again because my father rarely left the farm at all after he finally finished his stint as Mobil station operator. Until the day he retired from farming (the first time), we had a difficult time to get him to go much of anywhere, especially anywhere that wasn't somehow farm related. So that was my solitary afternoon alone with the cows. Odd perhaps, but not all that sad from my perspective.

I wonder why Emily thought it was sad, maybe she just didn't grow up with cows as big cuddly creatures? Any other closet cow lovers out there?

Oh and, by the way, the house only ever creeped me out again one time. That was the night I woke up feeling like screaming and no sound came out of my throat. Now that was pretty scary, but I eventually got back to sleep figuring it was just a nightmare. I actually came to love that old house with all of its strange nooks and crannies. Some of my favorite memories come from that house and it really became home, even though we only actually lived there for six years. When I go back to Randolph I always get nostalgic going by that house. The barn I hid out in is no longer there, it burned down after getting struck by lightening after we sold it. There's a new barn on the same location, but it lacks the charm of that old one and the cows aren't in comfort stalls anymore, they just roam around in free stall housing, so there would be no leaning your back on a lying down cow and smelling hay and silage. The old barn resides only in my memory. It's still a nice memory.

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